My father died in 1967. I was 18, and with him died any chance for me to share an adult relationship with him, or to understand the world he lived in.

I knew that he had been called up at the age of 35 on the day my elder brother Andy was born, 24 November 1942. He had been something lowly in the RAF’s Air-Sea Rescue service, on a high speed launch designated 2548. Of his wartime service he told me next to nothing.

He did write a book which touched on his experiences. It was called Treachery at Forty Knots, a boys’ adventure tale published in 1946. I have a faded copy in front of me now. He also kept a single Box Brownie photo of 2548 at speed in the Channel with the words Percy’s boat 1944 pencilled on the back.

That was about it. To me, those wartime days seemed about as remote as Agincourt. Then I set out to write THE WARNING BELL.

I had decided on a father-son theme and to start it in World War Two. It hadn’t occurred to me at that stage to link it in any way with my own father. Then, shuffling through some old papers I came across an original Box Brownie photo of his boat, 2548. It seemed almost like a message to me. I had my opening scene.

Dad had kept just one friend from his wartime days, Dave Fellick, who had been Cox’n of 2548. Fellick died twenty years ago, but I tracked down his family and learned from them that – to my utter astonishment – 2548 was still in existence. She had been spotted recently by an Air-Sea Rescue veteran in a Catalonian junkyard, not far from Barcelona. How she got there is something of a mystery.

A couple of months later my brother Andy and I drove down to Spain to find her again. She stands beside the road many miles from the sea, all 63 feet of her, bleaching in the Spanish sun and gently rotting away.

There is no hope for her now. She is beyond restoration. But the RAF roundel and her number are still there on the hull. And Andy and I were able to have the run of her for an hour or two. We had taken enlarged photos of our father and Dave Fellick with us and we pinned them up in the wheelhouse together and left them there, reunited after 65 years.

The Warning Bell is published by Orion

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